RICHLANDS — It was a battle to the finish as Clinton’s boys went head to head with South Lenoir in the semi-final round of the 2A conference tournament Wednesday night, but a solid showing at the charity stripe and key 3-pointers gave the Horses the lift they needed to get the breath-holding 73-72 win.
The victory puts the Horses in the championship game Friday against the winner of tonight’s matchup between No. 2 Northside and No. 6 Richlands.
But before they could get to the final, the No. 1 ranked Horses had to finish off South Lenoir, a task that appeared easy at first, but ended up being a fight to the finish.
Clinton started out strong and in command, leading 18-12 after the first quarter and taking a 15-point lead into the half.
But South Lenoir wasn’t going away that easy, either.
“I have to hand it to them,” Clinton coach Randy Jordan said of the South Lenoir team, “they came back after the break and took it right to us. They were playing very aggressive basketball and it caught us off guard. Give them all the credit, they were really hustling in the third quarter.”
And it showed, as South Lenoir pulled the game back into reach, outscoring the Horses 26 to 17 in the third quarter and easing to within 6, 58-52, at the opening of the final frame.
Clinton, however, wasn’t about to give up their lead without a battle, much of which was won through free throw shooting and clutch 3-pointers from Wil Pearson and Osharmain Jones.
“Both those guys came up with some key baskets,” Jordan said. “We won the game at the free throw line and with those 3-pointers.”
The Horses were 23 of 27 at the charity stripe while South Lenoir was only 26 of 38.
Jordan praised his team’s effort in the semi-final game, noting that the Horses played well from the start. “The intensity was right there from the start. In the third period, South Lenoir just took it to us and we couldn’t find our rhythm, but by the fourth we had, and in the last three minutes we executed our offense well and it paid off.”
Jordan said he was extremely proud of his varsity boys. “They were prepared and they played like it,” the coach stressed.
Shian Bradshaw led the Clinton scoring effort with 25 points. He also was 9 of 10 from the free throw line. Other leading scorers for the Horses were Demontio Bryant with 14 and Wil Pearson with 11.
Jordan also tipped his hat to Clinton players Greg Smith and J.C. Evans who, he said, did a great job for the team down the stretch.
Clinton will play in the final game Friday at 8 p.m.
“We’ve got to keep our intensity level up,” Jordan said. “If we can do that, and we can create that havoc on the court I’ve talked about before, we’ll be OK.”